Peacock, directed by Gu Changwei, 2005, China

Gao Weihong, a young woman in a household of five: parents, an older brother and a younger brother; grows up in the 1970s during the Cultural Revolution; precocious, capricious, whimsical and flipant, and a social misfit; often daydreams but unable to be a kindergarten nurse, a worker in a pharmaceutical factory, or a tomatoe refinery worker; with little self-esteem after failing to become a parachuter for the military; injuries herself to get the attention and pity of a married man she calls her godfather; married to a limo driver in order to move out of her family and to switch to a better job in the government; uses her charm to manipulate men so as to secure protection for her brothers in trouble; divorces and later has one daughter just like her

Gao Weiguo, eldest brother, dim-witted because of the brain illness in early childhood; treated as favorite by parents precisely because of his condition; overweight, prone to epilepcy but harmless to others; an embarrassment for the Gao family; often made fun of by his peers and co-workers who refer to him as “roasted pork;” laid off as a warehouse worker because he nearly commits murder by accidentally locking someone in the freezer; beaten badly when standing too closely to women’s restroom and suspected of lewd conduct; little liked by women around and married to a cripple; has one child

Gao Weiqiang, the youngest of the three siblings, intelligent and artistically talented; studies well in school until classmates find out Weiguo is his brother; denies Weiguo as his brother who delivers an embrella to him on a rainy day and even joins the crowd beating up his elder brother, and later attempts to kill him by rat poison; runs away after father finds that he draws scatches of female nudes and kicks him out; stops going to school and works in a senior home; marries a divorcee with a child; with a broken finger and often behaves like a child who would never grow up;

Guo Zi, a young man who likes to hunt with a shot-gun; has a crush on Gao Weihong and likes her for who she really is; never has the opportunity nor the proper etiquette to tell her how he feels about her; willing and able to do anything and everything that Weihong asks him to do, like deating up kids who bully Weiguo and giving moral suport to Weiqiang by pretending to be a respectful policeman and his brother; hangs around Weihong as much as possible and never marries

Godfather, an old man married with growned children; likes to play accordion by himself because he does not play it well; sympathetic and compassionate to a fault; buys Weihong’s story completely and spends his money buying food for her and her brother (Weiqiang) as if they are really abused children needing his fatherly care and love; resented by his biological chidlren who feel neglected because of his devotion to the Gao siblings

Father, a typical traditional Chinese father, trying to instill values and morals in his children and does his best to enable them to succeed in life; but quite limited by the ethos of his time in which normal human relationships and kinship are often perverted by radical politics and Mao discourse; at times a moral tyrant and a patriarch (senex), with expectations that his children feel hard to live up to and very little patience with their problems; his failure as a father is characteristic of an age in which order and authority are being destroyed and established anew, either questioned needlessly or obeyed blindly

Mother, a typical traditional Chinese mother (the great mother archetype): selfless and tireless in her effort to bring up and teach her children; although repeatedly disappointed by her children’s failures in life, instinctively does her best to protect them; to give up personal dignity to find a mate for Weiguo and to sustain his marriage, to apologize for Weihong’s misdmeanor, and to accept both Weihong and Weiqiang back into the house when they do not do well in society; survives her husband

Zhang, Li na, a divorced woman who marries Weiqiang when big with with child; an entertainer who sings popular songs in festive events and parties; regrets ever marrying Weiqiang for, instead of having to take care of one child, she now has to care for two

Jin Zhi, a young woman and a cripple from the countryside; marries Weiguo on condition that she lives seperately from him and that his family provides some money for them to start a small business; able to find feeling for her husband as an unfortunate child in the family, which she is in her own family favoring male children and unwilling to spend money on treating her leg; hard working and successful in managing their small food shop

Xiao Wanga local government employee whose job is to drive high ranking cadres around; pressured into marriage by Weihong and able to find her a new and better job as promised; quite disheartened to see his wife lose interest in a family life to the point at which she no longer wishes to return home to him while he still dutifully brings food to her at her work place; their marriage ends in divorce

Zhang, Mei ling, a good-looking young woman who works in a textile factory; refuses the request of Weiguo’s mother that she comes to Gao family for dinner as a favor so that her son would have the satisfaction of knowing that his mother is “serious” about his fancy of this woman; attracts men but never gets their attention for long, especially after words go out that she cannot be pregnant and therefore useless to men who want to marry to have a family; takes up the bottle when totally demoralized as if being punished through retribution for her arrogance and conceit


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